Updated: Feb 22
2020 and the pandemic has certainly added a lot of more stress into our already busy lives. Here are a few tips to help you spot points of stress and find a healthy balance to look after your mental health.
How to Identify and Manage Stress in the Workplace
The year 2020 has introduced new complications in navigating work-life balance, as things turning virtual has created a lack of separation between work and home. Whether it is a self-induced pressure to stay online longer, or your team has hard time adjusting to the new normal, this post will discuss ways to take work-life balance into your own hands, especially as we start to move back toward some sort of a hybrid in-office / work-from-home model in 2021 and beyond.
Identifying Symptoms and Causes of Stress
The first step to maintaining a strong work-life balance is to know when you are feeling stressed. Fear and anxiety about the COVID pandemic and other strong emotions can be overwhelming, and workplace stress can lead to burnout. It is critical that you recognize what stress looks like, take steps to build your resilience and manage job stress, and know where to go if you need help. Here are key symptoms of stress, per the CDC:
Feeling irritation, anger, or in denial
Feeling uncertain, nervous, or anxious
Feeling tired, overwhelmed, or burned out
Feeling sad or depressed
Having trouble sleeping
Having trouble concentrating
It is also important to be aware of common work-related factors that can add to stress during a pandemic:
Concern about the risk of being exposed to the virus at work
Taking care of personal and family needs while working
Managing a different workload
Lack of access to the tools and equipment needed to perform your job
Feelings that you are not contributing enough to work or guilt about not being on the frontline
Uncertainty about the future of your workplace and/or employment
Learning new communication tools and dealing with technical difficulties
Adapting to a different workspace and/or work schedule
How to Manage Stress
Communicate with your coworkers, supervisors, and employees about job stress while maintaining social distancing (at least 6 feet)
-Identify causes of stress and work together to identify solutions
-Talk openly with employers and employees about how the pandemic is affecting work - expectations should be communicated clearly by everyone
-Ask about how to access mental health resources in your workplace
Identify those things which you do not have control over and do the best you can with the resources available to you
Increase your sense of control by developing a consistent daily routine when possible
-Keep a regular sleep schedule
-Take breaks from work to stretch, exercise, or check in with your supportive colleagues, coworkers, family, and friends
-Spend some time outdoors if it helps, whether you are physically active or relaxing
-Set a regular time to end your work for the day, if possible
-Practice mindfulness techniques
-Do things you enjoy during non-work hours
Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including social media - hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting and mentally exhausting
Connect with others; talk with people you trust about your concerns, how you are feeling, or how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting you
Check on others. Helping others improves your sense of control, belonging, and self-esteem
Be Proactive About Your Schedule
While it is absolutely important to be able to identify and properly deal with stress in a healthy manner, the best case scenario is to avoid stress altogether. Of course, there are things that will happen that are out of your control, but there are steps that you can take to limit opportunities for work-related stress and take your well-being into your own hands.
1. Close your laptop at the same time every day
Although this isn’t always possible, you should try your best to end your day around the same time every evening. By creating a self-imposed stopping point and getting into the habit of wrapping up your work around the same time each day, you will find that it is much easier to tune out and avoid the self-induced stress of needlessly staying online. As long as you continue to perform at a high rate and hit your deadlines in stride, your supervisors / managers will trust that what you are doing is working and will not feel the need to micromanage your hours.
2. Build in concrete time to exercise
Exercise can be one of the easiest things to let slip away - we are all guilty of having done it. However, it becomes much less likely that you’ll miss daily exercise if you block off time on your calendar to get up and get active. Whether you enjoy lifting weights, going for a jog, or taking an online class, it’s imperative not to let your job stop you from working this into your calendar. There are countless studies and findings to support the importance of staying active - it reduces stress, benefits your mental (in addition to physical) health, and makes you more productive. So blocking time off in your calendar to exercise is in fact the best thing you can do, for both yourself and for your team!
3. Try limiting meetings to 1-2 days a week
Rarely is this entirely within your control, but if you have the option, loading up on meetings 1-2 days a week can be quite helpful in freeing up your calendar to get things done. Having various meetings spaced out across your calendar can be daunting and result in feeling like you are unable to perform tasks that you need to do because you are stuck in meetings all the time. However, if you have the bulk of your meetings one or two days per week, then you will feel like you have more time to carry the work you want to do.
4. Schedule 5-10 minute breaks in between meetings
A little break goes a long way. The ability to hop off of Zoom or out of a conference room, grabbing a glass of water, using the restroom, chatting with a coworker, or just walking around before your next meeting can be hugely beneficial and will go a long way in avoiding meeting fatigue. Back-to-back-to-back meetings without these little breaks build in can get exhausting, so work in these breaks if you can or talk to your supervisor / manager about scheduling 25 minute (or 55 minute) meetings instead of a full 30 minutes (or an hour).
5. Use your paid time off (PTO)
This is perhaps the most important step of all - please, please, please, use your paid time off!! It is there for a reason - you will not earn any additional praise or gain any benefits from never taking vacations: all you’ll end up with is more stress and less energy.
The Bottom Line
As we approach 2021, use this time to learn how to identify and manage stress and to take control of your calendar, so that your work-life balance can be as good as ever. The ongoing pandemic and any other external factors should never compromise your work-life balance - it is critical to prioritize your well-being in any situation or environment. This will ensure that you are always able to put your best foot forward and attack each day with energy.